by STEVE WATSON
Power-up policy will make it easier to get explosives through checkpoints
A former TSA agent has described the new rule mandating fliers to power up electrical devices at the TSA’s behest as “absurdist” and “theatrical”, saying it will not prevent any terrorist wanting to set off a bomb, and will likely make it easier to do just that.
Writing in the London Guardian, Jason Edward Harrington, a former TSA agent at Chicago’s O’Hare International, notes how he knew this rule may come into effect, and even wove it into a satirical piece he wrote on the TSA a year ago.
Now a whistleblower and a blogger, Harrington writes “I knew a checkpoint power-up directive was not at all outside the realm of airport-security possibility, because I was a TSA agent for six years – and the TSA can be as reactionary and absurd as it is technologically inept.”
“It should come as no surprise to you when this new measure joins the never-ending parade of blanket security directives that may actually make us less safe.” Harrington adds.
The Department of Homeland Security claims that there is a “credible threat” that has motivated the move to force those flying to the US from overseas to switch on their mobile phones and other electronic devices at checkpoints. However, it has only issued vague guidelines that all electrical devices must be charged up before travel to prove to security officials that they do not contain explosives.
Exactly what happens if they do contain explosives and are powered up is not explained.
Presumably, the DHS is on the look out for fake devices, disguised as everyday electrical objects, that are really bombs. However, as whistleblower Harrington notes, this makes little sense.
“If a group of terrorists is clever enough to pack explosives inside a laptop to make them undetectable by current technology, wouldn’t they be clever enough to devise an explosive laptop that can do all of this … and still appear to power up?” he notes, adding “wouldn’t they have just done that from the beginning?”
“…most post-9/11 airport security rules: the logic behind them is a race to the bottom.” Harrington adds.
Harrington urges that the reason the new policy will make flyers less safe is because “Nearly all of the security workforce, in all likelihood, will be mindlessly waving through passengers with powered-up electronics.”
“When you work front-line security with an inflexible checklist as your guide, you find it’s easy to let critical thinking take a backseat to basic standard operating procedure compliance.” he adds.
“Absurd, ham-handed security rules are ceaselessly drilled into the minds of TSA screeners as the only way to ensure the American way of life.”
“There’s nothing good about fostering complacency that allows for screeners to thoughtlessly regard as “safe” all items that fall within a rigid set of security parameters.” Harrington eloquently explains.
He advises that in a sane world, electrical devices would be subjected to the power up policy on a case-by-case basis, rather than a catch all system. That way “Grandma’s phone, in most cases, would receive exactly the theatrical attention it deserves: none.”
The TSA never has operated within sane parameters, however. Body scanners, insane liquid rules and kooky behavioral detection techniques have all proven to be completely useless procedures, and in many cases have made flying less safe.